The Weapons Locker: AGPtEK HD Game Capture VG0020 - Owner Impressions (with VIDEO!!)
One of the things I like to test out directly to get my own personal take on them is video game capture cards. Mainly because I feel like if I use Amazon Customer Ratings, 90% of them come out to be 3.5's, because people are never satisfied with any of them. And THAT's because video game capture and streaming is hard; it is almost as hard as networking can be sometimes, with a complex mix of variables if you are trying to do a full stack production, including the game capture device, a webcam, an external microphone, the in-game audio, and then edit that with whatever video editing software the vendor provides. Then there is the upload to YouTube if the software provides a direct sharing interface. It invokes a lot of variables, including the ones on the actual gaming device you are playing from, and several integration points where something can be wrong. In the end, the capture device itself typically takes the hit for any error in any of these other devices, hence you get a lot of Amazon Customer reviews that do not vary a whole lot across the average customer rating. With four of these devices and their associated software packages, 18 months of use, and over 200 videos produced using them, I've determined that in many cases, I just need to check them out myself.
The VG0020 was recently released, just back in December of 2016. It sells for $75.99 on Amazon right now, and carries an Average Customer Rating of 3.6. The cost makes it one of the least expensive solutions in a market that tends to see prices more around the $150 - $200 range. So for half the price, you can nab yourself one of the more competent solutions on the market. This device is a stand-alone external capture card, meaning that you can get the basics done without the need for a streaming PC to tie it all together. By the basics, I mean that you can get the video captured itself. If you have a mic with a standard 3.5mm stereo output, you can also capture your voiceover directly to the device. Supposedly. I say supposedly because the instructions that come with it indicate that it can only do that audio capture when you use the Component inputs. However, on Amazon, it indicates it can capture the audio whether you use HDMI or Component. I did not get a chance to test that myself, so it's on my to-do list.
The device is fairly basic and does not offer a lot of frills. But, again, it's half the price of most other solutions in this space. There is an input for power, a proprietary input for a dongle that ties together Component and Audio RCA inputs for a console that uses an older-style output. For modern consoles that have HDMI outputs, there are HDMI input and output pass-throughs on the rear panel also. If your console has a software HDCP setting, like Sony's PlayStation 4, you'll need to disable it. If not, you'll need to find some other way to overcome it; there are hardware solutions out there, but be warned that technically using those solutions is illegal.
On the Front Panel, there are inputs for an AUX Line In, a microphone, and Audio Out. The latter can be used to listen to the in-game audio by plugging in a set of stereo headphone while recording. All of these lines use a standard 3.5mm jack. In my testing, I connected my Sony MDR-V700s to the output port to listen to the sweet sounds of Assetto Corsa.
Back in the no-frills category, there are no On-Screen controls that present as an overlay, as the AverMedia HD Capture II C285 (another device I own) does. So for those OCD types that get twitchy when they cannot see or control their video feed, you're on hope and prayers that your video capture is actually happening. There is a single LED on the top that indicates when a capture is in progress, and a single push-button on the front panel to start and stop it. There is no means to pause the recording. On the Front Panel, there is also a USB port; I'm not sure if is a 2.0 or a 3.0 port. You use the port to either connect a portable or external USB hard drive up to 2TB in size. Alternatively, you can also use a USB thumb drive up to 128GB. That is the recording destination option that I used. One note on the recording destination is that it must be in FAT32 format.
If you do use the onboard mic port for recording, you'll have no means to control the audio balance between your voiceover and the in-game audio, And the VG0020 does not record them as separate tracks, so you will not be able to fix it in post. That's the only real inconvenience I can see as a result of not having an on-screen overlay for direct control of the device.
In my setup, I used a streaming PC in the mix, and ran my Logitech c930 webcam and a Blue USB Yeti microphone to that PC. I used the native Windows 10 Camera application to capture the webcam video, and Audacity to capture those two components. Once my recording was complete, I dumped all of the assets to my MacBook and used iMovie to edit, merge, and export the integrated file to an MPEG4.
The other negative of using this device is that, due to the FAT32 requirement, your captures are going to be limited to a file size of less than 2GB. The device's firmware will split the recording out over multiple files as you approach that limit. In my testing, I found that the file cutoff would usually occur at 1.88 GB, which gave me about 18 minutes of capture. The results were really pretty; in my captures, Assetto Corsa looks basically as good as my display did in real-time.
While the results looked as good to a skosh better than my other capture devices (Elgato HD60, AverMedia C285, and the AverMedia Live Gamer Extreme GC550), I encountered one issue. While recording the long test, the device ate my final segment of three. I do not have any of my powered HDD's formatted in FAT32 format, so there is not a means for me to conduct a comparison test. One out of three failures ain't bad for initial testing. It's within my threshold for do-overs. No telling if that is going to be a regular thing there or if it was an infrequent mishap.
I have no qualms recommending the AGPtEK HD Capture Device VG0020 as a video game capture solution. I would recommend you use your own video editing application for post-processing. There are a lot of complaints on Amazon about the included ArcSoft editing software being really mundane and sparse in features, although I will say that I did not install it and test it myself. The VG0020 is simple to use and setup, and should not to be as confusing for a new YouTuber as some of the more advanced solutions. The price on the device is excellent. There are definitely more options out there, but this price is hard to beat. You can check out my resultant videos in the embedded shows on this page. I am going to be continuing to check this out over the long haul, but I can give it my stamp of approval now as a low-cost basic solution. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a mention on Twitter @agasiclesstamas, which you can get to from the Twitter button at the bottom of the page.